Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Thanks to MrBallen, popular millennial YouTuber, I reacquainted myself with the incredible story of Roy Benavidez through his video, “This man died 37 times.” His story, from childhood to death, is incredible. But it was his heroic acts on May 2, 1968, serving in Vietnam as an Army Special Forces Airborne team that he survived his most incredible, heroic feats. He was shot, hit with grenade shrapnel, bayoneted, and clubbed with numerous injuries so serious that at one point he was mistakenly put into a body bag, presumed dead. He charged with a helicopter rescue team so suddenly that he left his machine gun behind, armed with only a Bowie knife. He ran repeatedly into enemy fire at point blank range and continued bouncing back until he successfully rescued eight soldiers who undoubtedly would have been killed without him. When Ronald Reagan gave him the Medal of Honor 13 years later, he told White House Reporters, “You are going to hear something you will not believe if it were a script.” The Mexican-American orphan, raised in poverty and determined to serve his country, stared death in the face armed with little more than a devout faith and a devotion to his fellow soldiers. This after stepping on a land Mine in 1965 on his first tour of duty, after which doctors proclaimed he would never walk again. To the utter disbelief of medical personnel, he walked out of the hospital less than a year later and had qualified for special forces less than two years after that (additional information via psywarrior.com).
Schools, parks, and even a Navy ship have been named in his honor. He was often referred to as the man who could not be killed. He is a military legend. But, ultimately, in 1998, diabetes did what an array of enemy fighters trying their hardest could not do. It took his life.
No one would want people to know this divine fact more than Mr. Benavidez would: “…it is appointed for men to die once…” (Heb. 9:27). Solomon adds, “For the living know they will die” (Ecc. 9:5). The sons of Korah echo, ” For he sees that even wise men die; The stupid and the senseless alike perish..” (Psa. 49:10a). The message is clear. One may evade death repeatedly, but not ultimately. Only the second coming of Christ will avert the unpreventable appointment with death (cf. Gen. 3:19).
What can and must be prevented is what the book of Revelation four times refers to as “the second death” (2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). It is powerful, painful, and punishing. But it’s avoidable. Christ died to defeat the power of physical death and the justice of spiritual death (Heb. 2:14-15). Jesus is the greatest hero of time and eternity, who faced death and overcame it to live forevermore and offer eternal life to those who follow Him (Mat. 16:24-27). He faced the worst that the most powerful enemy of all could throw against Him, and He utterly defeated him and it. We needed rescue, and Jesus delivered us. Surely no one who understands that would choose to remain where he or she will eternally die. Physical death is sure. Spiritual death is not. God still pleads, “Choose life in order that you may live” (Deut. 30:19).